A Life Lesson From A 12 Year Old

A couple of weekends ago, my youngest son, Alex, and I went camping. He’d been bugging me for over a month to take a father/son trip. No brother or sister. No Mom. Just Alex and Dad.

I love camping. I really enjoy getting out of the house and away from the office to a place where the day-to-day grind fades out of sight for a while. But while I was eager to grant Alex’s request, I was also hesitant.

You see, Alex didn’t just want to go camping, he wanted to go mountain biking. And he had it all planned out. He knew the state park we were to visit. And he even had a couple of trails in mind, including a long rugged one to a geological formation in a remote part of the park.

While I’m no expert, I have been mountain biking a few times. But it had been a while and I’m a little out of shape. Truth be told, I was worried about looking foolish. After all, I’m Dad. I’m the man who has all the answers and can fix anything, right? So I was somewhat relieved when the weather caused us to pass up the first available weekend. And then the next weekend was already booked with other events. Too bad.

Of course, there was never any question about me going mountain biking. As 12 year olds do, Alex kept asking when we were going on our trip. He obviously wasn’t going to forget about it, so I broke down and booked a campsite for the weekend after Easter.

We had a great time. We talked about manly things and performed manly deeds. We made the long mountain bike trek and no airlift was required. We ate camping food and didn’t take a shower until we got back home. We laughed and bonded over inside jokes. Before I knew it, the weekend was over.

Looking back, I had a hard time believing I was so apprehensive about the trip. Alex, on the other hand, never had a doubt. He’s not an experienced biker, but was super-eager to hit the trail. As I thought about it, I was able to identify some key differences in our approach to the weekend.

~ While I focused on what could go wrong, Alex focused on what could go right. I fretted about the weather, my health and our gear. Alex thought about the trails he wanted to ride, the wildlife he hoped to see, and what we’d have for dinner. For our trip to be successful, someone had to attend to the details; but I’d let the little things keep me from enjoying the lead-up to the weekend.

~ While I worried about the effort required, Alex anticipated the journey. In the days leading up to our trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about work and home maintenance projects that could be accomplished with the time. I thought about the high price of gas and the hassle of setting up camp. Alex couldn’t stop talking about the lead-up either. But he saw the preparation as part of the adventure.

~ While I stressed about the details, Alex looked at the big picture. Left to my own devices, I probably would have never scheduled the trip. Too many things to do at home, too many responsibilities to face when I got back. Alex saw the opportunity to have fun and make memories. With that as his focus, why would we not go?

Positive attitude, work-life balance, and big-picture thinking. These are ideas I regularly emphasize to my team and customers. And while I’m a little embarrassed that I failed to follow my own advice, I was proud of the way my son not only created a vision of the weekend, but inspired me to help make it a reality. Way to go Alex. I’m already looking forward to the next trip.

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